So you have an idea for a business. Awesome! This is an exciting moment for you — but also probably a daunting one. The list of to-dos in front of you seems endless, and you’re probably left wondering where to even begin. But here’s the good news: launching a service-based business requires a lot less planning and overhead than a product-based one. There is not actually too much standing in the way of you working with your first client.
However, before you officially launch your business, there are some key things you should do first. Below is a list of 11 things to do before launching your service-based business to ensure that you’re set up for success.
First and foremost, who is your business for? Knowing and understanding your target audience is key to ensuring you are speaking to the right people in your content. You may not have a perfect picture of who this person is right now, and it may even change with time! That’s totally OK. What’s important now is to try and have at least a general understanding of who you want to work with. What stage of life are they in? What are they dealing with? What sort of things are important to them?
So you know what you want to do and you know who you want to do it for. That should be enough, right? Almost. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just start a photography business for skincare brands for the clients to roll in. You have to be able to bridge the gap of why you are the best photographer for those skincare brands.
You do this by deeply understanding the unique problem you are solving for your clients — and the unique way you are solving that problem. Maybe there aren’t a lot of skincare photographers who don’t touch up skin, for example. This is where you can hone in and speak to the frustration your ideal clients have that it’s difficult to find photographers who will embrace the natural texture and imperfections that they want to showcase in their photos.
As much as we value community over competition at Gold Standard Brand Co., it is a fact of running a business that you will have competitors. Every successful business does. If there is demand, there must be supply! And you can’t possibly be the right solution for everyone. That’s totally OK.
What’s important here is not to dwell on the fact that you have competitors, or obsess over everything they do. Instead, you should have a pulse on what the market is offering and what your ideal clients are drawn to. That way, you’ll be able to recognize how you are different from those competitors, and be able to speak to those differences in a way people will resonate with.
Pricing for a service-based business is a complicated topic, primarily because there is no great industry standard to follow. Whether you decide you want to price by the hour, by project scope, by the value you provide, or even a combination of all three — know that you aren’t locked into your choice forever. You can always adapt and figure out what works for you.
The most important piece to remember when choosing your prices is that you are paying yourself enough to make it worthwhile for you while also being reasonable based on your expertise. Do a bit of research on your industry and skill level to determine a base price, and don’t be afraid to raise your prices as you learn, grow, and improve!
While you don’t need to have all your ducks in a row to start taking on your first client(s), it is really helpful to have at least some idea of how long things will take you and what those clients should expect. When a client signs on to work with you, you should be able to communicate at least a loose format of how you will work together.
If your process includes deliverables, let your client know when they can expect to receive them and when they will need to be prepared to give you feedback. If your service includes a lot of 1:1 time and checking in, try to establish a consistent schedule or cadence for your communication. This will not only help your client feel more supported, but will help you stay accountable and keep the project moving forward.
When you’re just starting out in your business, contracts can feel really official in a way that can feel potentially overwhelming or uncomfortable. But you should never, ever enter into a client relationship without one! Remember: contracts aren’t just for you. They also protect your clients and set a clear scope for what you are doing together that you will both come to appreciate!
We highly recommend investing in a good contract before you ever take on a client. That way, you always know you’re protected in the event a complicated situation arises. Investing now will take a lot of stress off of you in the future! Here are some resources we recommend:
**Make sure you are purchasing the right contract for your industry and country**
Marketing as a new business can feel like a daunting task. Where do you even start? The best thing to do is to pick one channel (think: Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn) that you 1) feel comfortable with and 2) your audience enjoys. Then, focus on building your audience on this one channel until you start to see some traction. This might feel a bit like putting all your eggs in one basket, but it’s important not to spread yourself too thin to start with. Once you start to get more comfortable with what you have to say and the audience you are targeting, then you can start to test out some other platforms.
That said, feel free to go ahead and secure your handle on all these different platforms so you have them! And don’t be afraid to test the waters or have some fun with other mediums. Just try not to overwhelm yourself with too much right away.
A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is a centralized platform for you to keep track of all your contacts, projects, invoices, payments, and more. It allows you to keep everything in one place — from new leads to past clients and everything in between — so things don’t get lost or forgotten elsewhere.
The most popular CRMs for service-based businesses are Dubsado* and Honeybook. Both platforms have pros and cons, but they offer similar capabilities, including: forms, proposals, contracts, automations, scheduling, invoicing, client management, and reporting.
*We are a Dubsado affiliate – use our link to receive 20% off your first month or year!
Building an email list is one of the most important (and neglected) pieces of starting a business. While social media is great for building an audience — email is best for building relationships. The more you can bring your audience from other platforms to your email list, the more opportunities you’ll have to build better connections and keep them engaged until they’re ready to buy from you.
At Gold Standard Brand Co., we love Flodesk* for new businesses who want to have beautiful emails without the hassle of a complex platform. Flodesk is where you’ll be able to send emails, create audience segments, and build forms and workflows.
*We are a Flodesk affiliate – use our link to receive 50% off your first year!
Even if you don’t plan to have a website right away, make sure you have a domain secured for when you do! Many new businesses make the mistake of naming their business, creating their logo, and building their audience…only to realize when they go to create their site that all the good domains are already taken.
Domains are fairly affordable through services such as Google Domains and GoDaddy. Go ahead and grab it so it’s ready whenever you are!
As you’re building your audience through your primary marketing channel, you’ll want people to have a clear place to go to 1) learn more about your service and 2) get in touch with you. A simple landing page is the best way to do this when you are just starting out.
This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Use a service like Linktree or Milkshake and include some information about you, your services, and a form for people to inquire about working with you!
If you’re feeling really ahead of the game (or want something productive to do while you’re waiting for your first client to roll in), create a freebie! Also known as a lead magnet, this is a free resource you can offer to your audience in exchange for their email address. This is great for a multitude of reasons, but primarily because it helps you build your email list while also providing valuable information and building brand awareness.
Your freebie can take a variety of formats from a downloadable PDF to a short video to a fun quiz. No matter what, though, it should be simple and solve a clear problem for your audience. Make it enticing! It should also tie back to your service and share a bit about your business.
The Gold Standard Brand Collective was created just for this! Our community is for up-and-coming founders to get the processes, tactics, and strategies to support you in mastering your brand with a human-first approach.
Every month, we dig into the steps of building our brands with live trainings, accountability sessions, real-life use cases, and more — so you have one go-to place for questions, resources, and support.